The NBA has a pattern when it comes to their greats, and each of these special players has dominated their own decade. The ’80s belonged to Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. The ’90s were of course all about Michael Jordan. The 2000s were headlined by the late great Kobe Bryant. And obviously, the 2010s were LeBron James’ kingdom. So this leaves the question of who will be the NBA’s brightest star in the 2020s.
Well, the answer is pretty simple. No, it isn’t Giannis Antetokounmpo or Zion Williamson. It is Luka Doncic, the Slovenian superstar for the Dallas Mavericks, who through unheard of feats both in the NBA and overseas, unbelievable basketball talent at the young age of 21, and his ability to already step up his game when it matters the most will dominate this league for a very long time.
Doncic’s rise to stardom went down an unorthodox path, in comparison to other NBA stars. He was born and raised in Slovenia, wherein a soccer country, he stood out in basketball. In 2013 at the age of 13, Doncic was signed to one of Europe’s top teams in Spain’s Real Madrid. To put this accomplishment into perspective, when fellow European stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kristaps Porzingis played in Europe, Giannis was a role player in Greece’s second league at 18 while Porzingis came off the bench on one of Spain’s worst teams.
Doncic was the best player on one of Europe’s best teams by his debut at the age of 16. In the 2017-18 season, when the guard was still just 19 years old, Doncic won the Euroleague MVP while leading Madrid to the league championship in the second-best basketball league in the world.
By the time Doncic declared for the 2018 NBA draft, he was a Euroleague MVP, Euroleague champion, and Euroleague Final 4 MVP. And he still wasn’t picked first in the draft.
Doncic was selected with the third overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks, but he never played a game for them. The Dallas Mavericks saw that Luka could be the franchise-changing player they hadn’t seen since Dirk Nowitzki, and when he didn’t fall to them at 5, they took action. The Mavericks selected point guard Trae Young fifth and subsequently sent him along with their 2019 first-round pick to the Hawks for Doncic. And while Young has been an all-star in Atlanta already, Doncic has and will make the Hawks regret this trade for a long time.
Doncic in his rookie season averaged 21 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists while shooting nearly 43% from the floor. For reference, the only other players with these kinds of stats in their rookie years were a Hall-of-Famer Oscar Robertson and the GOAT himself Michael Jordan. This incredible first season netted Doncic the NBA’s Rookie of The Year award for the 2018-19 season and was just 2 votes away from being unanimous.
And with more help in the next season, Luka only got better. After trading for elite big man Kristaps Porzingis from New York, Luka and the Mavs burst onto the scene in the 2019-20 season. Doncic was named an all-star starter and is sure to finish at least in the top 5 in MVP voting with averages of 28.8 PPG, 9.4 RPG, and 8.8 APG to go along with a 46.3 field goal percentage and a league-best 17 triple-doubles at the age of 21.
Not only that, but the play of the Slovenian sophomore jolted the Mavericks back into the playoffs for the first time since 2016 as the 7 seed with a 43-32 record. And it’s not like he doesn’t know how to turn it up when it matters. In his two seasons, Doncic averages 3 PPG in clutch situations, top 20 in the league in that span. And the playoffs have only filled his veins with even more ice. In his first playoff game against arguably the best defensive team in the league, the young superstar scored 40 points on the Clippers, a record for a debuting player in the playoffs.
And not only that, but Luka put the league on notice with a 43 point triple-double in a Game 4 overtime victory in which his signature moment in the league thus far came with a step-back three at the buzzer to win the game and tie the series. Even though the Mavericks would be eliminated later in the series, you can bet the world now knows Luka Doncic’s name and he will be sure no one forgets it.
In just two seasons, Luka Doncic has proven himself as one of the NBA’s best players. His success overseas has more than translated into the NBA where his game has only evolved with much tougher competition. His basketball IQ, fearlessness to be a team’s go-to guy in crunch time, elite athleticism and overall basketball ability to be able to put a team on his back places him in a remarkable spot of success so early in his career.
And being the franchise cornerstone of the Dallas Mavericks, a well-run team that knows a thing or two about winning with a European superstar, only makes Doncic’s situation even better. At just 21 years old, this Slovenian wunderkind has taken the league by storm, and assuming he stays healthy and adequately supported, Luka Doncic can and will lead the Mavericks into contention for years to come all while cementing himself as a perennial MVP candidate, as he has the potential to not only be one of the NBA’s greatest players ever, but he could be able to forge out one of the greatest careers in the history of sports.
Photo Credit: Dallas News